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Specialist dementia unit opens at PA

21 January 2020

The new architecturally-designed Acute Cognitive Unit (ACU) at the PA Hospital (PAH) has opened, satisfying a pressing need for a dementia-friendly environmental design for patients who experience severe Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD).

By adopting the 10 principles of environmental design for people with dementia, Clinical Nurse Consultant for Dementia and Delirium, Fred Graham, is confident the new ACU will assist in managing the severity of high-risk BPSD.

“At PAH, there has been a pressing need for a contextual space on campus for people experiencing severe BPSD who at times may become violent and unmanageable” said Fred.

“Providing care for patients experiencing such high-risk symptoms within a traditional hospital environment can be a real challenge given the overstimulation from the clinical space such as lights, busyness, constant movement, people and sounds.”

The repurposed eight-bed space has incorporated several elements that a person walking through may not immediately notice, but they can make a big difference for people with dementia.

“These elements include free flowing access to the natural world, in this case a sensory garden space, separate bedrooms that have natural finishes rather than clinical finishes, contrasting colours on items to help wayfinding and camouflaged colour schemes for doors and items we don’t want accessible to patients.

“The environment is purposefully designed to be dementia-enabling rather than confusing and overstimulating and this provides a key advantage in developing effective approaches to managing severe BPSD for this patient cohort,” said Fred.

“This area could not have come at a better time given that the level of violence associated with patients with dementia in acute medical wards is now reaching a critical point for the hospital.”

The unit is led by a Geriatrician and supported by an interprofessional Dementia and Delirium Nursing Service trained and specialising in dementia care, including a clinical neuropsychologist, leisure therapist, specialist nurses, social work and other allied health.

The interprofessional team will tailor an effective individualised care plan that is proven for each patient, making the transition back into the community easier for them and their carers.

The eight beds in the ACU are split into separated bedrooms with a common living space and outdoor space allowing for patients to be alone or interact with others as they please.  

The unit began admitting patients from other areas of the hospital from 20 January and will commence research to evaluate its effectiveness in reducing the severity of patient’s symptoms and providing high quality evidence-based care for this patient cohort.

“We successfully secured a SERTA grant to assess how patients respond over the next two years to this dementia friendly environment and specialised inter-professional model of care. This will hopefully provide a great insight into the benefit of environmental design for clinical care,” said Fred. The unit has been the culmination of two-year planning process and a dedicated group of people.

*Professor Richard Flemming’s 10 principles of environmental design for people with dementia.

Last updated 24 January 2020
Last reviewed 21 January 2020

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